ELeGieS

Nis nu cwicra nan
þe ic him modsefan
minne durre
sweotule asecgan.

The Wanderer

 

 

Later, Now

What dissolves later is all front, that
creeping shell, that anybody’s house.
Nonetheless, percentages have been
stable for a week, so the fat sits. We
marvel that the outward motion of the stars
opens such depths to view: as under, so above.

The places you can’t go are monumental,
your only real estate a heart, a phantom
fence. Oh, just look on past it!
There are no details where we are now,
just routine executions—that clamoring
queue so loves a spectacle that any
seeming thing can rule. Windows nailed shut
last week have so far kept our houses empty.

Still, all that can be said about the kingdom
is that we wander its vast wastes, attracting
armadillos and sundry wildlife with our
noisy instruments and luminous radar, now
that the respite of your tenderness is gone.
 

Wanderer

you’re seeing

something out there
springing up: a waterspout
its listing shimmy far away
from windows deeply shuttered
like the ones you hid behind
when storms came or trouble

you always knew that
what cannot be seen is only sound

places you go into with nothing much
in mind, so necessary to have
nothing in mind, to have a mind
with nothing in it when lightning comes
the hardest thing to do

pushed first this way then that
this boat is going over

the pleasure of
things without words
water running over a rock
or that day you stepped out
into that rigid cold
and shrugged in your clothes
something like a skin you
could move around in, some
shape you entered into then
discovered as your own

the first time you heard
the baby laugh, the only thing
in the world always like
the first time

you never imagined you’d die
the way you did
it teased you first
knocked you around a bit or a lot
let you sleep it off while it
cooled off in a close café
or in another hemisphere
got on a bus headed your way
no matter where you were

in the end, it would invite you
into a little room
not as cramped as a
confessional, not as luxe as the
ladies’ room you peeked into
in that hotel in Havana
warmth coming from somewhere
inside those marble surfaces
the stuffed tight couch and chairs
the deep mirror where
women leaned into their own
reflections, that look in the eye to eye
like someone distracted by
a thought not enough
to hang onto

watching them

feeling the things you felt

you stepped out for, say
a pack of smokes or idly
followed something that swayed
you were already falling
when it came, one small
searing point inside you
suddenly big as the world

even if you could have made a sound
even if you could have screamed
like a tornado,
you could not have matched
its everything, it had no other side

my friend, this is as far as I can go
from this world that’s not
the one you’re in, the one
where you arrived when you
were on your way to someplace else
with your tired luggage
happy, sad, trying
to find a place where
someone would be glad to see you

if hope can have an object
in the past, I hope that in the end
you weren’t alone, that some hand
touched you with kindness, hope
that if you had yearned for someone
it never crossed your mind
hope you didn’t think you’d lost
the things you couldn’t have
hope you knew you always had
all the things you had to leave behind
 

First, Last

In the end it’s air the body wants,
air that won’t come, air that comes
too late. The body wants it as one
wants cool water from a jar midday
or wants to rest a spell in shade at
the edge of the field or to lie beside
the creek that goes on without you
when you look away, moving as air
moves through all living things, like
life itself before we know we’re us.

If death did you a kindness, that last
body you let go would return you
to the first, the body you lived in
when you knew the way you’d never
know again the sound of that creek,
the smell of the cornfield in hot rain,
or in the cool of the day the garden’s
beans and zinnias, that red dirt you
ate that tasted like pennies, like blood,
or down the road on a power line pole,
the creosote that tasted the way
you imagined electricity must taste,
not exactly better than the dirt, but
worth the punishment of prohibition.

Nothing could touch the things you
carried in your mind. Even dragging
that kid-sized cotton-picking sack,
you could be dawdling in a dream,
feeling winter on your skin or
throwing sticks for your first dog
who smelled like biscuits and molasses,
that happy first friend of your soul,
killed by the bus your first day of school.
In that way of country people who
give grief no place to go, your mother
sent you on, when you got home, she
helped you bury him. But your grief
rode that bus with you to school each
day, sat at the desk behind you, waited
near the road to watch you play, and
shadowed you through every dream
till planting time, that year that
didn’t end until you found the things
inside that still belonged to you,
your readiness for wonder, and
your tender stubborn love.
 

Escape

When death stopped by the room was ready–
the dark with its luminescent sonar,
the tedium of equipment, its scrawl and bell,
forced breathing like a turn signal still on
when you forgot to turn, sounding like tires
on patchy road, or like an ocean outside
a closed door, the sound of saying taken
from you, the sound you swam beneath already
far away from us, leaving, gone.
Just the week before you joked about more
elegant transmutations, that breathy
speech saying you wished to be encrypted
for retrieval at some better future date or
aged in a barrel and sipped neat cold nights or
milled to feed the trees that shade the porch.
We hope you’ve forgiven us for not acting
on such worthy desires—finding you now
each day in places you didn’t even know,
we’ve happily concluded that you
maneuvered past the end there on your own.
 

Heart

the last heart
in a faint box
incised with vines
how that heart
younger than the heart it was
labored to rescue
the old man
how the guardians of it—tender
in their disregard
could not disperse
the demons
at the foot of the bed

that heart was the thing
we counted on
when all we could do was count
we were made small
by things we couldn’t track
signals from the gate
and outposts you’d already
left behind

the quiz of it
the previous empire of
ice chips then
looking like the high life
from this side of the
breathing machine

that boat in the distance
you rowed on
marveling at a sky
we could not see
and turned to us to say
and we weren’t there
but we were

the swing of the statistic
and its fold
your oxygen wave
or just our waving
hoping you’d wave back
none of it
is all right with me now

the long hour already done
no longer an hour
no more time, just place
someplace where
there’s no obverse
no converse
no traverse
just strangers passing by

it was what we heard
at the end of the world

so call on it, call it out
bring your house with you
but come soon

all our prayers
cannot pace the plea of it
the way your voice could
if we could only hear it

 

 

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